21 places that could really do with not being part of Greater London

Happy Valley, near Coulsdon, which really doesn't make me very happy at all. Image: GanMed64/creative commons.

Greater London is a big beast. It’s 606sq miles, and has 32 boroughs and the City of London. The Greater London Authority runs it from City Hall in Southwark, and like all decent cities it has a mayor, Sadiq Khan.

What it also has – which doesn’t seem to fit its proud city status – is a load of random fields, farms, and tiny villages that really don’t need to be there.

There are plenty of perfectly good counties all around the place that could take these chunks of land and do something with them, while real London could get on with its important business of, you know, actually being a city.

Here, in a torrent of unashamed bitterness, are 21 of those places.

1) North Ockenden, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Look at all that green. It’s the wrong side of M25, for a start, and it’s the most easterly and most outlying settlement in Greater London (as rightly measured by distance from Charing Cross). Somebody in 1992 had the bright idea of giving everything east of the M25 to Essex, but a bunch of NIMBYs said no, obviously, and so here we are.

2) Puddledock Farm Fisheries, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

These guys run fishing matches on ‘the Snake Lake’ every Sunday, so that’s nice. There are four lakes – including a purpose built competition lake, a specimen lake, and a peg lake. Whatever any of that means. All I’m seeing is a whole lot of green and a whole lot of wrong side of the M25.

3) Fairlop Plain, Barkingside

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This is Redbridge, so it’s not even one of the hard-core, middle-of-nowhere boroughs, and yet here we are. There’s a tube station right next to a huge load of random green, including (but not limited to) a Country Park, a golf course, a large lake, another golf club, and a whole load of empty fields. Honestly. Three tube stations in one screenshot and a whole load of green. Immoral.

4) Turkey Brook and Clay Hill, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Ignoring the Museum of Transport up in the top left – everyone loves a museum of transport – this is just a whole load of green countryside that does not need to be in London.

5) Botany Bay, Enfield Chase

Lovely and green. Image: Christine Matthews/creative commons.

Get back to Sydney where you belong, and stop being so ridiculous, Enfield. It’s about a mile away from the nearest train station, and it has a farm shop. This is not the future liberals want.

6) Trent Park, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

If there were a triple lock designed to annoy CityMetric readers as much as the real one annoys the youth, this one has it. It’s in the Green Belt, lies within a conservation area, and also gets a spot in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. This sounds like a lovely place, but it’s just empty fields from here to the M25 and beyond into Hertfordshire, so why not just give them the thing.

7) The road between Totteridge and Highwood Hill

Not London. Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This stretch of winding road has acres and acres of green space on either side, and has a pretty open path out to the countryside of Hertfordshire. What need for it to be in London?

8) Hill End, Hillingdon

I've always wanted to live in a big city like London. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

Part of a charming park – the Colne Valley Regional Park – that really doesn’t need to be in London, and is a 57-minute trudge away from the nearest train station, Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line. Or if you want to be in Zone 6, it’s an hour and ten to walk to Northwood. Your choice.

9) Malden Rushett, near Epsom

The long shadow of urbanisation. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

You know that bit where London pokes out to the south west, like an accusatory pointing finger? It’s the Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, and I’d always assumed there was something important there that needed to be included in Greater London. But no. There’s just this village. It even has a sad dribble of a railway line that they started building south of Chessington South station, on the branch line from Motspur Park, before the Green Belt was introduced and they realised that there was no point taking the line any further south. Thanks, Green Belt. You gave us this pointless village on the udder of London.

 

10) Happy Valley & The Devil’s Den, Coulsdon

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

I’m not happy about the fact that this is in the Borough of Croydon when it could just as easily be in Surrey.

 

11) Kings Wood, near Warlingham

Look at the density of that wood. Crazy.

 

12) Addington Hills, Addington

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Swathes and swathes of countryside, green things, and another golf course. What is it with all the golf courses.

 

13) Layhams Farm, Layhams Cattery, and the Metropolitan Police Dog Training Establishment, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Not making any of this up.

 

14) Shepherds Shaw, Tatsfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

So many fields, so little need to be in the urban area of Greater London.

 

15) Buckhurst, near Biggin Hill

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Most Londoners wouldn’t know what to do with this much green even if you put it in a bag of toasted kale chips and charged four quid for it.

16) Horns Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

A trio of charming villages here.

17) Berry’s Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

I know it’s not good to quote from Wikipedia, but the entry here is too good. It's apparently “a fairly wooded rural area with a scattering of farmland”.

18) Downe, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Charles Darwin lived here, and that’s it. That’s literally all they’ve got.

19) Hockenden, near Swanley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This *hamlet* isn’t even on a bus route.

20) Rainham Marshes

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Drain the swamp, drain the swamp, drain the swamp.

21) Hacton, Havering

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Surrounded by the – you guessed it – green belt.


Of course the alternative to chucking all of these places out of Greater London would just be to build some bloody houses on them, but let’s not push the boat out too far. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.